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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Cup Coming to Edmonton and McDavid Underrated?

The NHL hasn’t made an official announcement yet, but Edmonton and Toronto will be the two hub cities for the 2020 NHL playoffs. We could see exhibition games by the end of this month and the qualifying round and seeding rounds beginning in early August.

The NHL would like to announce an extension to the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in conjunction with naming the hub cities, so until that gets ratified we won’t see an official announcement from the league.

Not only will the NHL playoffs be coming to Edmonton so will the Stanley Cup.

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The Cup hasn’t been awarded in Edmonton since May 26th, 1988 when the Oilers swept the Boston Bruins in four games, but played three of those games on home ice.

The Oilers won games one and two at home, won game three 6-3 in Boston and game four was tied 3-3 with 3:23 remaining in the second period when their was a power failure at Boston Gardens. The game was delayed, but after a lengthy delay NHL President, John Ziegler, announced the game was suspended.

The league decided to start the game over, but game four was moved to Edmonton and the Oilers won 6-3 and captured their fourth Stanley Cup in five seasons. They won all four on home ice. The Oilers defeated the Bruins in the 1990 Stanley Cup Final, and celebrated a Cup victory on the road for the first time in franchise history

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For context, only four current Oilers: Mike Smith (1982), Mike Green (1985), Kris Russell and James Neal (1987) were alive the last time the Cup was lifted in Edmonton.

The Stanley Cup was in Edmonton for game six of the 2006 Finals, but the Oilers shutout Carolina 4-0 to send the teams back to Carolina for game seven.

Will the Oilers be in the Cup Finals? It seems unlikely right now, but the Oilers were a top-five team in points since January 1st,  scored the second most goals/game and had the 10th best goals/against per game. They wouldn’t be a massive underdog to represent the west, but they also aren’t a favourite.

Having Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on separate lines makes them very dangerous, and Oilers fans can now ponder the possibility about the Oilers playing for the Cup in Edmonton. A thought I suspect no one had a few months ago.

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TRAINING CAMP ROSTER…

NHL teams are allowed 30 skaters and unlimited goalies for training camp, and then 28 skaters are allowed to travel to the Hub city.

The Oilers will have 29 skaters at training camp along with four goalies.

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The forwards will be McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto, Zack Kassian, James Neal, Tyler Ennis, Josh Archibald, Andreas Athanasiou, Riley Sheahan, Alex Chiasson, Jujhar Khaira, Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard and Patrick Russell, Tyler Benson and two of Cooper Marody, Ryan McLeod and Markus Granlund.

The blueliners will be Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear, Kris Russell, Mike Green, Caleb Jones, Matt Benning as well as Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson and Philip Broberg.

One of these skaters will need to not with the Oilers when the opposing teams arrive in Edmonton for the playoffs.

Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Stuart Skinner and Olivier Rodrique will be the goalies at camp and could remain for the duration of the Oilers’ postseason run.

Here and There…

1.) Training camp was originally planned to begin on Friday, July 10th, but it sounds like Monday the 13th is more likely as the NHL and NHLPA continue to hammer out a new CBA.
In two separate text convos with NHL personnel, I was told teams could have about 10-14 day training camp and then fly to Toronto and Edmonton and play a few exhibition games, so we could see exhibition games by the end of this month.

2.) The NBA announced last week they plan to re-start their season on July 30th, and I’m told the NHL would like to have a few games prior to that. Whether it happens remains to be seen, but I can see why the NHL would like to have some televised games before the NBA.

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3.) The NHL and NHLPA agreed to extend the expiry date of NHL contracts to October 31st, which means players on expiring contracts would become unrestricted free agents on November 1st. Sheahan, Ennis, P. Russell, Granlund, Smith, Green as well as Brandon Manning, Tomas Jurco, Brad Malone, Keegan Lowe and Shane Starrett are set to become UFAs. Granlund already signed in Europe, but I think Smith and Sheahan are good bets to return. The organization likes Malone and Lowe as leaders in the AHL, and Malone already signed an AHL deal. Manning and Jurco will not be signed. Green and Ennis’ play and their comfort level with their teammates, as well as salary expectations will determine if the Oilers re-sign them.

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4.) Some in Vegas felt their city’s reputation has been dragged through the mud by the NHL opting not to play there. Interesting read. I understand some of his points, but it is fair to point out that when UFC fought in Vegas the COVID cases were significantly less. It is only the recent outbreak that forced the NHL to change directions. Plus, the term bubble has always been misleading. Contained environment is more accurate, as there is an actual bubble in Edmonton. Teams will travel to Terwillegar arena (four ice surfaces) to practice. I think it is more about lowering the risk of infection, rather than expecting a perfectly insulated bubble. That was never going to happen in any city.

5.) McDavid, Draisaitl and Nurse came in this weekend and most of the Europeans arrived last week. Those not yet here should arrive by Friday as players will need to quarantine before being ready for training camp on the 13th. I think it is possible, in fact very likely, some teams not have their full rosters on the ice for the first day of training camp. As players arrive they will be tested and some will test positive, and then have to be away from the team for two weeks. If the NHL wants all the games to be played and the hub cities to succeed, players and all staff will need to be diligent and follow the guidelines set out by medical personnel.

6.) A source told me McDavid was able to train harder the past three months than he did last off-season while he was rehabbing. McDavid worked extremely hard rehabbing his knee, but rehabbing is different than training when healthy, and he still finished second in league scoring with 97 points in 64 games. I’m very interested to see how he looks when the qualifying round begins. It seems odd to write that McDavid could be underrated heading into the playoffs, but I think many of us overlooked how well he played despite coming off a major injury. I won’t be surprised to see McDavid have some ridiculous games this postseason. He will be more dominant than he was during the 2017 playoffs.

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